Center exercises capability to relocate treaty monitoring mission
By Susan A. Romano, AFTAC Public Affairs
/ Published September 06, 2018
MILLINGTON, Tenn. -- The Air Force Technical Applications Center exercised its capability to transfer its critical nuclear treaty monitoring mission Aug. 14-15 to the center’s newly established contingency operations location in Millington, Tenn.
AFTAC is the sole organization in the Department of Defense tasked with monitoring worldwide nuclear detonations and with providing national decision makers with data analysis on atomic events underwater, in the atmosphere, underground or in space.
Because of its no-fail 24/7 mission, AFTAC is tasked with providing uninterrupted access to nuclear event detection data to provide national decision makers at the highest levels in the U.S. government. The center also operates the U.S. National Data Center, the nation’s arm of the International Monitoring System that supports the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization to limit nuclear testing and proliferation worldwide.
Millington offers AFTAC leadership the unique opportunity to create a fully operational alternate operations center if needed in the event its primary location at Patrick AFB should become uninhabitable due to a natural or man-made disaster.
Referred to as a COOP (contingency of operations), a team of subject matter experts traveled to Tennessee to establish communication lines, ensure connectivity was fully operational, and prepare to transfer the mission from AFTAC’s operations center to the alternate facility. While it sounds relatively simple, there are a lot of complicated and moving parts of the transfer.
“We don’t just operate off of one network,” said Master Sgt. Michael Nolan, cyber operations superintendent. “We collect, process, analyze and report data from several information technology systems. It would be a lot simpler if we were just working from one unclassified system, but due to the nature of our mission, it’s critical for us to provide access to all operating systems. So it does take some time and effort to ensure the team has precisely what they need to successfully transfer from one location to another.”
The team is also responsible to inform outside agencies and stakeholders, such as combatant commanders, international mission partners, AFTAC’s higher headquarters, and the National Military Command Center, just to name a few.
For this exercise, 2nd Lt. Morgan Snyder served as the senior duty officer overseeing execution of the transfer. Sitting at her side was Master Sgt. Jorge Garcia, AFTAC operations manager, who was responsible for systems validation and ensuring COOP team members were prepared to accept mission transfer.
“It’s always challenging to be geographically separated from your primary headquarters,” said Snyder, “but as the SDO, it falls upon me to make sure the transfer is seamless and successful. There are times when I feel a lot of pressure and responsibility, especially since our mission is so critical, but I have a lot of SMEs (subject matter experts) I can rely on to assist me if I have any questions or concerns. It’s a total team effort.”
AFTAC’s vice commander, Col. Ralph E. Bordner III, traveled to Millington to observe the process and learn how his Airmen execute the COOP.
“As the nation’s leading expert on nuclear detection, we as an organization need to ensure we are prepared for any contingency that may alter how we do business,” said Bordner. “One of the ways we do that is to conduct exercises that examine our critical functions, validate our ability to relocate our surveillance operations, and verify the effectiveness of our alert mission.”
He added, “For the past several months, the team here has been meticulously planning for the COOP, and by all accounts, the transfer was a huge success. It’s a testament to their hard work, and I’m confident should a hurricane head our way this season, we are fully prepared to deliver our findings to national decision makers.”